Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Following or, The Scream Sequel We Never Had

Have you been, er, following The Following. It's a new TV series from Kevin Williamson who we all know as the screenwriter of Scream, Scream 2, and some of Scream 4. Two episodes have aired so far, and it is already a densely layered macabre treat. I am, however, not quite on board with Kevin Bacon, although his grizzled appearance may certainly be an asset down the line. He certainly looks like somebody who's been treated badly by the years and I find delicious symmetry in Bacon appearing on TV once his wife, Kyra Sedgwick, decided to call it quits on her own oft-gruesome series, The Closer. They took turns!

Of course, being written by Kevin Williamson was always going to imply a certain meta quality to it, since that's one of his trademarks. What we may not have expected until news began to trickle out about the series' plot last year was that it shares a lot in common with Williamson's ditched idea for Scream 3, as well as sharing similarities with the potential direction of Scream 5 and Scream 6. Williamson's original idea for the trilogy-ending Scream 3 is infamous: Stu Macher was to be in prison - having survived being stabbed, slashed, and having a television thrown onto his face, naturally - and manipulating a connected cell of wannabe serial killers from the inside who set out to do his bidding. And then the Columbine shooting tragedy happened and the idea of knife-wielding teenagers running around a high school didn't sound quite so PC (it also derailed Williamson's first and, as of now, only directorial effort, Teaching Mrs Tingle (nee Killing Mrs Tingle) and, well, the rest is history. Williamson wanted to focus on other projects and then Ehren Kruger was brought on board to do a whole lot of silly, albeit enjoyable thanks to the cast and director, stuff. It's timely that The Following should be airing at the same time that we're continuing the Scream to Scream, Scene by Scene feature at the half way mark of Scream 3. Personally, I think the idea of Stu in prison is ludicrous and it's probably a good thing it never happened especially since the television format allows for him to go deeper with the plot.

And, indeed, now comes The Following and it's remarkably easy to watch the show and see how it would have worked in Williamson's Scream world. Scream 4, which was released two years ago (!), was to be Williamson's redemption in a way and see the inter-connected serial killer cell plot revived thanks to the efforts of Sidney's cousin, Jill. "I don't need friends, I need fans", she told an alarmed Sidney Prescott in that ballsy climactic reveal sequence, and it was presumably the jumping off point for a sequel. Yet again he was foiled by the Weinsteins and he left the project to, yet again, focus on other projects. There's Kevin Bacon's former FBI agent saying dialogue like "he wants to finish what he started", or a serial killing apprentice following "the rules" of his leader and so on. And it's very easy to see how the Edgar Allen Poe element of The Following could have very easily been a horror movie in the Scream universe. I mean, the entire pilot episode played out like an extended opening scene with a big name getting the surprising chop. The series even stars Nico Tortorella whom obviously made a big impression with Williamson on the set of Scream 4 (and, boy, who wouldn't be impressed by that face?)

I will be interested to see where The Following goes, especially since these first two episodes have been far from blood-free. Can it get gorier? There've been multiple massacres, a whole lot of bloodied bodies, a man set aflame in the middle of a street, self-sacrifices, and a lot - A LOT - of eyeball related nastiness. Red herrings, surprise twists, and quippy meta dialogue abound. So much so that, if I didn't already know, I would suspect Williamson had something to do with it. I think my favourite part so far is the way creepy use of Poe masks, which have an awkward menacing quality that recalls Leahterface. It's easy to see the series going around in circles, but I hope for Williamson's sake that he's able to finally tell this story in a way that, at least for him, does it justice. I'll be watching.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Any Which Way With Laurence

Xavier Dolan is a very young filmmaker. I don't just mean in terms of his age - although at only 23 his ambition is now embarrassing the rest of us - but in terms of his style, too. Emblematic of a lot of young directors, his brief three-deep filmography has veered wildly about through a list of inspirations as he navigates the terrain for a style that feels explicitly his own. His debut, the ferocious I Killed My Mother, was, I felt, very indebted to the American independent movement and directors of the New Queer Cinema movement of the late 1980s and early 1990s like Gus Van Sant and Todd Haynes. His follow-up, Heartbeats (or Les Amours Imaginaires because the English title is lame), was like a fractured blending of Wong Kar-wai and the French New Wave. I adored them both, loved them even. For such a young filmmaker to hold such command is admirable to say the least. He wore his inspirations on his sleeve, sure, but the boldness of his storytelling and the captivating way he brandishes his style made for exciting cinema. He embraced overt style in a large-scale more than any director since Baz Luhrmann or Tarsem Singh - at least that I could think of, and as somebody with a penchant for that very type of cinema, it thrilled me to no end.

With Laurence Anyways, Dolan has made perhaps his strongest statement yet for what the rest of his career may hold. A near three-hour boutique epic if you will that charts the relationship between two individuals once the man (Melvil Poupaud in a role that demands a liquid transformative quality) decides to live the rest of his life as a woman, Laurence Anyways was clearly a demanding undertaking for the Canadian director. For the first time Dolan has removed himself from the on-screen equation (except for a brief Hitchcock style cameo during the dazzing "Fade to Grey" musical number) and stuck to a mere three hyphenated role as writer-director-costume co-designer. Still, his inspirations remain front and centre and, perhaps, that's just the way he wants it and perhaps that's his actual signature trait ala Quentin Tarantino. Of course, Dolan's work is more homage than pastiche, as he recreates and recrafts his favourite elements of cinema into something altogether unfamiliar. As he experiences more of the world - and his films imply he's already experienced quite a bit that's worth examining through a lens - I suspect his films will only grow more assured, which is an alarming concept given the impeccable streak he's already on.

With this film, Xavier Dolan has seemingly found a way to blend the exuberant flamboyance of Pedro Almodovar with that of the winsome melancholy of Sofia Coppola. Regarding the former, he all but goes out of his way to reference both What Have I Done to Deserve This? and All About My Mother, whilst allowing many moments of the film to revel in the hyper-textural landscape that the Spaniard is known for. Coppola, on the other hand, is much like Dolan in that she's used her own inspirations to help create her own style that feels both something borrowed and something new at the same time. Laurence's affinity to baroque synth-pop of the 1980s and classical instrumentals can't help but recall Coppola's Marie Antoinette, but the influence is also there in the way Dolan is able to turn a quiet moment of seeming insignificance into a painting of a thousand words. As the final scenes show the transformed Laurence finally recognising her true self and potential, the same may certainly be said for Dolan himself. Laurence Anyways is a messy film at times, but its those loose threads that give it an identity all its own, and with this film the intrepid Canuck may have just found his unique, true path to set out on.

Full of ornate, delicate beauty, Laurence Anyways is such a strong piece of filmmaking that I can't imagine its images and soundscapes escaping my memory any time soon. The billowing purple coat as Laurence's ferry takes him away through the ice, the darkened laser-lit nightclub sequence, the assortment of over-sized jackets worn by Suzanne Clément, the look of gee whiz surprise on her face as she teaches Laurence to apply make-up, the pink brink amongst a wall of white, a broad-shouldered person, whose face we don't see, disappearing into a cloud of white smoke... just remembering them now (and many others) is making me ache. This film is so incredibly beautiful that I could barely stand any more than the 160 minutes we got. Filmed in 1:33 Academy ratio, the film is nevertheless sumptuously crafted with stunning costumes and cinematography that lend the oft-maligned time period a rich decadence. The stand-out scene, a hypnotic ballroom dance sequence set to the classic beats of Visage's "Fade to Grey", is a cavalcade of hypnotic visuals as Clément struts about as if Dolan has decided to recreate a 1980s music video to full anything goes excess. Full to the brim with divine cross-fades and breath-taking camera swoops, zooms, and pans, it's an utterly awe-inspiring moment of pure grandeur and if a moment comes along in 2013 that is as eye-opening and rewatchable as that then 2013 will be a mighty good year.

And as if that scene wasn't enough proof, Suzanne Clément is truly magnificent as Frederique. She has such power in her performance that the film feels as if it's more about her journey than his. Whether breathlessly arguing with a nosy waitress, laughing maniacally along to Kim Carnes' "Bette Davis Eyes" in a pot-fuelled car trip, or attempting to present a facade of normalcy as she tries to live a suburban life away from the drama of Laurence, Clément gives a performance of fiery range. She's a stunner. I can only hope that Dolan's next film proves as magnetic as Laurence and that he continues to tell queer stories in a completely unabashed way. We need a few more directors like him who are willing to go there and make "gay cinema" that embraces all the facets, both positive and negative, of our lives, whilst also inhabiting the skills to make them technical marvels. A- / A

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Scream to Scream, Scene by Scene: SCENE 15 of Scream 3 (0:55:34-0:59:15)

In this project I attempt to review the entire Scream trilogy scene by scene in chronological order. Heavy spoilers and gore throughout!

SCENE 15 of Scream 3
Length: 3mins 41secs
Primary Characters: Gale Weathers, Jennifer Jolie, Bianca Burnette (Carrie Fisher).
Pop Culture References:
  • Star Wars and George Lucas

Thank god that's over! Now we can move on to what Scream 3 does best: Gale & Gale Investigations. It's like Scooby Doo, but with two narcissistic Hollywood types. Of course, even though the worst scene in Scream franchise history is over, doesn't mean the national nightmare that is Scream 3's costume design is also over. No sir, Courteney Cox's unflattering ensembles are still here to stay.

This movie really did overdo the "boo machine" scare tactic. Like, way way overboard with that. These characters are out in broad daylight surrounded by hundreds of people... I mean, Roman's a dumb serial killer, but he's not that dumb.

"What the hell are you doing?"
"Being Gale Weathers! What the hell are you doing?"
"I am Gale Weathers."

Gale weathers is such a complex character, after all.

"Here's how I see it. I've got no house, no bodyguard, no movie, and I'm being stalked. 'Cause somebody wants to kill me? No. Because somebody wants to kill you. So now, starting now, I go where you go. That way, if somebody wants to kill me, I'll be with you, so if they really want to kill you they won't kill me. They'll kill you. Make sense?"
"You know, in the movies I play as you being much smarter."
"And as a sane person. For you that must be quite a stretch."

You know, Jennifer's reasoning actually makes a lot of sense in a general way, although it also doesn't make sense because if the killer was simply trying to kill off people from the original killings then why kill Sarah after Cotton?

"Need to get in that building?"
"There a story in that building?"
"Gale Weathers would find a way."


I could watch these two all day.

Flawless. And I kinda love that Marco Beltrami's score takes a turn for the Angelo Badalamenti-meets-Clue in this moment all but completing the film's swerve from slasher to old-fashioned whodunnit mystery. Sherlock Holmesy, even.

"Basements give me the creeps!"
"You'd make a fascinating interview."

Ooh, burn!

And, yes, I am very much aware that somewhere along the line I've stopped even attempting to provide thoughtful, probing insights, and have instead resorted simply to quoting Gale and Jennifer, letting you swim through Courteney Cox and Parker Posey's sublime divinity.

Of all the times to not try and give audiences a fake scare, they go for the scene in the studio basement? That makes no sense. They may Heather Matarazzo's entrance into a boo machine testing suite and yet here all we get is a noise off in the distance. No threatening music cues or prolonged sequence of terror? Sigh. But, then again, maybe they thought Randy's sister was enough to terrify people for days on end and that they didn't need any more? (I'll get over that scene eventually, you guys!)

"Hey, are you-"
"But you look just li-"
"Like her? I've been hearing it all my life."
"It's uncanny!"
"I was up for Princess Leia, I was this close. So who gets it? The one who sleeps with George Lucas."

Ignoring the fact that the thought of sleeping with George Lucas is now in my brain and can never be erased, the story flies in the face of history, which tells a story of Carrie Fisher and Sissy Spacek being cast in Carrie and Star Wars respectively. They then swapped for some reason and history played out the way it did. Can you imagine Spacek in Star Wars? No, neither can I? Can you imagine Carrie Fisher having the career that Spacek did? No, neither can I. Funny, that. Although, I think there's a story in the Scream 3 audio commentary about this scene (or at least parts of it) being written by Fisher herself, so who knows...

"I don't work for the cops, I work for the studio."
"Really, well, would you work for... the President?"
"The President... of the studio."

"Fifty dollars? What are you, a reporter for Woodsboro High?"

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I'm grateful Scream 3 exists. Parker Posey just tears through this part, doesn't she? I would have placed her in my top five supporting actresses of 2000, for sure (alongside this and Best in Show she was quite prolofic at the time, although I'm not quite sure where she's gone too after Superman Returns in 2006). Anyway, I know we give Ehren Kruger a lot of flack for many of the film's biggest faults, but I can't deny that he came up with some zingers and in this instant didn't even fall back on a Nancy Drew joke like he so easily could have. Amazing.

Of course Sidney's mom never made it big in Hollywood if her stage name was Rena Reynolds!

"Rena Reynolds... stage name."
"You should talk, Judy Jergenstern!"

JUDY JERGENSTERN! I want this frame printed and hung on my wall. It fills me with so much joy.


I could quote the expository dialogue that links Sidney mother with Stab producer John Milton and his early horror films like Creatures from the San Andreas Fault, Amazombies, and Space Psycho, but let's just bathe in how incredible those fake movie titles are and imagine how wonderful it'd be if they really existed. Preferably starring Parker Posey. Because you know she'd be aces in them. Also: Maureen (nee Rena) was in a stage play called I Want to Scream. Well, that certainly proved prophetic, no?

Intro, Scene 1, Scene 2, Scene 3, Scene 4, Scene 5, Scene 6, Scene 7, Scene 8, Scene 9, Scene 10, Scene 11, Scene 12, Scene 13, Scene 14, Scene 15, Scene 16, Scene 17, Scene 18, Scene 19, Scene 20, Scene 21, Scene 22, Scene 23, Scene 24, Scene 25, Scene 26, Scene 27, Scene 28, Scene 29, Scene 30, Scene 31 Scene 32, Scene 33, End Credits

Scream 2
Scene 1, Scene 2, Scene 3, Scene 4, Scene 5, Scene 6, Scene 7, Scene 8, Scene 9, Scene 10, Scene 11, Scene 12, Scene 13, Scene 14. Scene 15, Scene 16, Scene 17, Scene 18, Scene 19, Scene 20, Scene 21, Scene 22, Scene 23, Scene 24, Scene 25, Scene 26, Scene 27, Scene 28, Scene 29, Scene 30, End Credits

Scream 3
Scene 1, Scene 2, Scene 3, Scene 4, Scene 5, Scene 6, Scene 7, Scene 8, Scene 9, Scene 10, Scene 11, Scene 12, Scene 13, Scene 14

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Guilty as Charged

On the surface, I appear to be the perfect audience for Anne Fletcher's mother/son road trip comedy The Guilt Trip. I love Barbra Streisand on screen, I'm one of the few who adores Seth Rogen and finds him both charming and curiously attractive, and I occasionally (perhaps too often) have a penchant for this sort of lightweight comedy. It shouldn't surprise then that I came out of The Guilt Trip without having the sever allergic reaction that many others have had. I certainly don't think it's the cinematic road kill that others have claimed, but for a film that's so curiously pitched at vastly different audience different audiences (Streisand fans and Rogen fans are not typically the kind to sit together on lunch break) it manages enough sweetness to get by.

Streisand has been nominated for a Razzie for this performance, which is hardly surprising given that award body's seemingly tireless effort to be even lazier than people claim the Oscars to be. As the overtly Jewish Mother (I'm sure the filmmakers would capitalise if it they could so I'll do it for them) of the picture she's perfectly fine and doesn't really add anything to the role that isn't there on the page - she has a particularly wonderful moment at the house of Adam Scott's character as she uncovers the truth behind her first true love - but it's Rogen who, along with Take This Waltz, proves to be a warm screen presence when in the absense of marijuana and his Apatow cronies. The Guilt Trip is visually unspectacular and lord only knows where that $40mil budget was spent - on location filming, I presume, but who can really tell? - but if the film ultimately lacks the zest that Fletcher's 27 Dresses, The Proposal, and Step Up had, then that's at least partially made up for with the actors. Why on Earth the screenwriter thought the story of a mother teaching her grown up son how to sell environmentally friendly detergent was something worth endeavouring with is something I can't answer, but the final product seems to come and go without offending. B-

Speaking of Apatow, lodged somewhere in the middle of Rogen and Streisand's age brackets is This Is 40. Despite its shinier exterior and more appropriately matched cast, I can't recommend this over-long, scattershot comedy of middle-aged woes. Chucklesome more than funny, and only ever in fits and spurts, This is 40 gets off on the wrong foot almost instantaneously with its two stars, Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann, arguing over his use of an erectile stimulant. The film is over two hours of continual "greatest hits of adulthood" as these two go from situation to situation with little connecting tissue. A plot involving Rudd's record label (!!!) is handled in a particularly unsatisfying way, and the film's connection to Knocked Up causes frustrations that only intensify once the credits role. Why aren't Rogen and Katherine Heigl's characters here? I mean, they're related to them and they don't show up to the birthday party? In fact, the only character from Knocked Up to return is Charlene Yi's pot-smoker, who is somehow given the responsibility of babysitting and as a salesgirl at Mann's vintage clothing store. That scripting decision alone is enough to tell you how under-developed This is 40 is. C-

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Scream to Scream, Scene by Scene: SCENE 14 of Scream 3 (0:51:25-0:55:33)

In this project I attempt to review the entire Scream trilogy scene by scene in chronological order. Heavy spoilers and gore throughout!

SCENE 14 of Scream 3
Length: 4mins 8secs
Primary Characters: Sidney Prescott, Dewey Riley, Gale Weathers, Martha Meeks (Heather Matarazzo), Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy), and Detective Wallace.
Pop Culture References:
  • The Godfather Part III and The Return of the Jedi (Used as trilogy examples)
  • Reservoir Dogs (Randy describes a potential crime scene this way)

Are you ready for the worst scene in the entire franchise? Gosh, I HOPE SO!

Oh my gawd. Do you know what's behind that door? WELL DO YOU? It's something far scarier than Ghostface could ever be. And given it's daylight on a heavily populated location, the film's use of the "boo scare" reveal just makes the following character introduction ever worse. Sigh. It gives me great pains to present to you...

"Don't shoot, I'm only 17!"


No, but seriously, Martha is awful, and her clothes are awful, and this scene is awful, and Heather Matarazzo is awful (in this), and Martha is awful, and her clothes are awful, and her clothes are awful, and Martha is awful.

Well, you get the picture. Literally.

Not only did they have to give Heather Matarazzo an entirely terrible character that wears entire terrible clothes and exists for entirely terrible expository reasons, but they make the actress say ludicrous rubbish dialogue like the bonmot underneath the screencap. I just can't with this scene, you guys. Every single time I watch this movie I skip it. Well, that is unless I'm screening it for somebody for the first time and they've never witnessed the shocking sights that it holds in its tight, leopard print grip. *shudder*

Well done anonymous police extras. I feel much safer knowing Heather Matarazzo can't stab me to death now that you're around. :/

"What are you doing here?"
"There's something you guys should see."

No seriously, what is she doing there and how did she get onto the lot? "I'm the real life sister of somebody portrayed in Stab" probably doesn't get a lot of gorky 17-year-olds onto film sets these days. Could she not express post the video rather than jumping out of film set trailers in retina-burning pants? SHOULDN'T SHE BE IN SCHOOL INSTEAD OF GALLIVANTING AROUND LOS ANGELES?!? "We miss you in Woodsboro," she says. Yeah, I'm sure they're really disappointed that a new serial killing Ghostface is on the scene and has decided to take up residence in another town. Really disappointed. That does remind me of one of Scream 4's most potent moments, when a crime scene onlooker goes all The Birds on Neve Campbell's Sidney and blames her for bringing the killings with her. But we're getting ahead of ourselves, aren't? This scene has plenty more awful stuff to go yet.


And yet still one of the worst decisions they could have made. It's just silly, isn't it? I mean, this shit is morbid for Martha to be holding on to that tape just in case another killer comes around, isn't it?

"Toldja I'd make a movie some day! Well, if you're watching this tape it means, as I feared, I did not survive these killings here at Windsor College. And that giving up my virginity to to Karen Colcheck at the video store was probably not a good idea."
"Karen Colcheck?"
"Yes, Karen Colcheck."
"Creepy Karen?"
"Shut up! She was a sweet person. We were working late, putting away some videos in the porno section and, ya know, shit happens."

Oh lord, the video tape back and forth between Dewey and Randy! :/

I'm glad you find your goody future husband's banter so funny, Gale, but while you're here in this scene, I think we can all agree that we'd much rather be watching Gale & Gale Investigations on another channel.

I'm not gonna lie, guys. I'm debating whether to even include Scream 3's "trilogy" rules. I mean, it's just so silly and tacked on. This would have at least made more sense if, as Scream 3 was originally meant to do, it was set in Woodsboro. Alas.

"The reason I am here is to help you so that my death won't be in vein. So that my life's work will help save some other poor soul from being mutilated. If this killer does come back and he's for real, there are a few things you gotta remember. Is this simply another sequel? Well, if it is: same rules apply. Here's the critical thing. If you find yourself dealing with an unexpected back-story, and a preponderance of expedition then the sequel rules do not apply. Because you are not dealing with a sequel. You are dealing with the concluding chapter... of a trilogy!

That's right, it's a rarity in the horror field, but it does exist. It's a force to be reckoned with, because true trilogies are all about going back to the beginning and discovering something that wasn't true from the get go. Godfather, Jedi, all revealed something that wasn't true that we thought was true. So if it is a trilogy you're dealing with here are some super trilogy rules...

"1. You've got a killer who's going to be super human. Stabbing him won't work, shooting him won't work. Basically in the third one you gotta cryogenically freeze his head, decapitate him, or blow him up.
2. Anyone including the main character can die. This means you, Sid. It's the final chapter. It could be fucking Reservoir Dogs by the time this thing's through.
3. The past will come back to bite you in the ass. Whatever you think you know about the past, forget it. The past is not at rest. Any sins you think were committed in the past are about to break out and destroy you.

And he goes on to wish them good luck and, "for some", a see you soon invitation. Of course, nobody from this group actually did die, nor did the finale end up like Reservoir Dogs. If anything, Scream 4 adhered to the rules of Scream 3 much more than Scream 3 did. Funny to note that there was originally a fourth rule, "never be alone." It was taken out because, hilariously, Gale goes off by herself (and the others let her without a fuss, curiously) as soon as Martha leaves.

An amber-hued hair clip. Seriously. AND THOSE PANTS OH MY GAWD! Of course, it just keeps better and better worse and worse.


I repeat.


How long until this late '90s, early '00s fashion trend takes off again?


Sorry for getting so shouty, but it bears shouting. I mean, she shows up out of the blue in Hollywood, shows them a video tape, and then just walks off into the (figurative) sunset. Hell, I'd be thinking she was a suspect. Especially given what her brother's own video said about the past and the beginning and things never being what they seem. Is it too crazy for these guys to assume (or at least Gale since she doesn't personally know Martha) that maybe Randy was a puppeteer from the very start and now he's using his meek sister (lol, MEEK!) to play out some of his dirty work?

You guys, I just came up with the better ending to Scream 3. Sigh.

Even if that wasn't the case, wouldn't they feel a bit strange about sending this 17-year-old off by herself amongst Hollywood as a serial killer is on the loose specifically targeting people with connections (however fictional) to the original Woodsboro?


Thank gawd that's over because one scene later we revisit Gale & Gale Investigations, which is basically what I want my life to be like, okay?

Intro, Scene 1, Scene 2, Scene 3, Scene 4, Scene 5, Scene 6, Scene 7, Scene 8, Scene 9, Scene 10, Scene 11, Scene 12, Scene 13, Scene 14, Scene 15, Scene 16, Scene 17, Scene 18, Scene 19, Scene 20, Scene 21, Scene 22, Scene 23, Scene 24, Scene 25, Scene 26, Scene 27, Scene 28, Scene 29, Scene 30, Scene 31 Scene 32, Scene 33, End Credits

Scream 2
Scene 1, Scene 2, Scene 3, Scene 4, Scene 5, Scene 6, Scene 7, Scene 8, Scene 9, Scene 10, Scene 11, Scene 12, Scene 13, Scene 14. Scene 15, Scene 16, Scene 17, Scene 18, Scene 19, Scene 20, Scene 21, Scene 22, Scene 23, Scene 24, Scene 25, Scene 26, Scene 27, Scene 28, Scene 29, Scene 30, End Credits

Scream 3
Scene 1, Scene 2, Scene 3, Scene 4, Scene 5, Scene 6, Scene 7, Scene 8, Scene 9, Scene 10, Scene 11, Scene 12, Scene 13

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Cult Girl

Cults are big business, or so it would seem, for some reason. I suspect it has something to do with the years of shedding that the mystique of these institutions have endured recently, perhaps most prominently with the "church" of Scientology, but also incidents like those at Heaven's Gate in 1997, which was certainly amongst the first times I'd ever heard of these type of places. Films about the topic have been popping up quite a bit lately, whether the its the fictional worlds of Martha Marcy May Marlene, Sound of My Voice, documentaries like Beyond Our Ken, or the clearly inspired-by-real-events movies like Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master. And that's not even mentioning the constant news items about films being in development that deal with the Manson family and the weird hold he held over his disciples.

Well, it's time to add another to the list. One Eyed Girl (grammar cultists will be outraged) is an upcoming Australian film from director Nick Matthews. That Matthews, who has previously only directed short features, mostly works as a cinematographer should help explain why the imagery from his debut feature is so beautiful. If you remember the infamous 2:37 then you may remember his work on that. He's not, however, the DP of One Eyed Girl (oh man, how annoying that going to get? HYPHEN, PEOPLE! HYPHEN!) but instead he's gone with another relative newcomer, Jody Muston. Take a look at the wordless teaser below.

It certainly looks gorgeous, but whether there's any actual substance beneath its pretty pictures remains to be seen. I like Mark Leonard Winter so it will certainly be good to see him front and centre in a film again, although the movie certainly doesn't look like a commercial vehicle in any way shape or form, so festival status may be its only avenue. We'll see.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Wild Open Waters

Saturday was a long day that began with a discussion about The Guilt Trip on the radio that turned into a delirious vaudeville act of Barbra Streisand jokes, and then developed into a day out at the tennis. I cheered on players I didn't know against other players I didn't know (they turned out to be good matches though, and the games involving more famous players like the Williams sisters and Tsonga were straight set duds), and briefly spotting Novak Djokavic. Naturally I was surrounded by onlookers who were, like me, only out for a perve (er, can you blame us?). By the time I got home late in the evening I needed some movie viewing that wasn't, shall we say, dramatically challenging. After digging through the stacks of films I have, I chose The River Wild. Because, you know, why not?

Directed by Curtis Hanson - "from the director of The Hand That Rocks the Cradle" as the poster of elegantly states - this 1994 actioner is one one of those rare beasts that sees an actress of Meryl Streep's age and stature (she was a 45-year-old, duel Oscar winner at the time) taking charge of a genre film. In that regard, The River Wild had a lot of interest behind it for me, not to mention that this era in Meryl Streep's career is a particularly curious one to navigate with titles like She-Devil, Death Becomes Her, and Postcards from the Edge, which were, at the time, seemingly anomalous for her as they branched into thoroughly unprestigious territory.

However, as the end credits rolled, I couldn't help but wish she'd do this more often. Streep obviously verges more on the mainstream side of the fence than some may think, but she so often takes roles in films that are only fleetingly as good and interesting as her performances in them. Making Mamma Mia! may have defied expectations once, but not anymore, and it'd be great if she could take on an original property that felt truly unique and necessary. I'd love to see her put that enviable skill to another film like The River Wild, or, as I've long wished - and said so on multiple occasions - a scary film in the tradition of The Innocents and The Others. Hell, if they have to remake Gaslight like they keep threatening, I'd dive at the chance to see Streep's take on the material. It would certainly pique my interest, because as much as I look forward to the big screen adaptation of August: Osage County, her casting feels particularly musky.

David Straithairn, Josh C Reilley, Meryl Streep, Kevin Bacon, and the kid from Jurassic Park!

Hell, if they just went and rereleased The River Wild, I am sure its reception would be a hell of a lot more positive than it was in 1994. It's score on Rotten Tomatoes - always an iffy prospect for movies made before, say, 2000 - indicates a 50/50 split between those who didn't like it and those who enjoyed it as little more than disposable genre fluff. It's very easy to hypothesise that if this white water rafting thrill-seaker action flick (yes, I'm guessing that was once used as a way to sell The River Wild!) being made today with, for instance, Jessica Chastain (they'd naturally cast younger, but in a pinch maybe they'd choose Sandra Bullock?) and Jeremy Renner in the Kevin Bacon villain role and being greeted with rapturous response. Given the dire state of action filmmaking, The River Wild's more old school sensibility - lack of plastic CGI, actual identifiably flawed human characters, established adult actors over "next big thing" type gambles - would surely prove a calming respite from a world full of John Carter, The Hobbit, and The Avengers. I mean, the amount of times I've read "good enough" (or a variation of it) in relation to an action film outside the realm of superheroes and sci-fi is alarming.

It's perhaps possible to make the argument that I am projecting modern day action film disappointment on to The River Wild and claiming it to be greater than it actually it. I certainly wouldn't shoot you down if you said that, but I do think the film is a remarkably effective one for many of the reasons I've already stated. Streep's aura of authority looms over the film, propelling its dramatic moments to as high a peak as its adventurous, oft-thrilling action setpieces. I admired the way Jerry Goldsmith's score and Robert Elswit's cinematography go together so handsomely. And I though Hanson's handling of the action scenes - as potentially messy and discombobulating as ones involving white water rafting could get - were all superb. "Meryl Streep kicks ass" isn't a saying that can be uttered all that often, but in doing so here she helped make The River Wild a cut above the rest. B+

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Hitchcock Meets Lynch

I won't lie: the prospect of The Bates Motel has me incredibly curious. The marketing, however, is making me several kinds of confused. Given the show is supposedly a prequel to Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, I haven't the faintest idea why it's set in modern times. I mean, I get that they've just repurposed the story to a modern setting and that makes sense in theory, but quite a bit of Psycho's power comes from its time period. The repressed homosexual subtext, the role of women in society, and the way Norman Bates (here played by Freddy Highmore) is all but abandoned and unable to reach out... it's hard to picture all of that working when Norman is also walking around with an iPod banging tunes as he acts sullen.

Perhaps most curious of all, however, is that the show's home network appears to be targeting the show as a Twin Peaks type of mystery as opposed to, as I initially suspected it may be, a more old-fashioned and Hitchcockian take on American Horror Story. The newly released teaser posters for the show, which premieres in March, certainly amplify this angle, with a couple quite overtly thrusting David Lynch's groundbreaking 1989 murder mystery into the audience's face.

The second and third designs are basically the imagery of Laura Palmer "dead, wrapped in plastic" on the rocky beach of Twin Peaks split into its two two halves: the girl, and a chilly northwestern coast. The first design, however, is not only the best of the lot, but also blatantly echoes my personal favourite piece of Twin Peaks artwork. Perhaps I'm just seeing things, but to me that Bates Motel design clearly looks to have taken some inspiration from the below VHS cover of the European "telemovie" pilot episode. It not for the hanging flame in the corner, then for the deep blue colour palate and the streetlight motif. Surely I'm not the only one who sees it.

Of course, maybe I just have Twin Peaks on the brain as I've been planning a potential trip to Long Bend, one hour out of Seattle in Washington, to visit Twin Peaks Fest. A convention of sorts with other likeminded Twin Peaks obsessives who spend a weekend eating donuts and pie, drinking coffee, visiting famed Twin Peaks landmarks, and diving into everything David Lynch and Mark Frost. It's going to be wild, I tell you, although that does mean I'm going to have to find the time to fit in rewatching the entire series at some point! We'll see if The Bates Motel can create that level of enthusiasm of if it comes off as little more than pecking at the corpses of two famed properties.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Marion, Salma, and Lucy: An Eternal Golden Globes Mystery (Plus the Other Lovely Ladies of the Golden Globes)

What do we think is going on in this shot from yesterday's Golden Globe Awards? Lena Dunham was on stage accepting her award for best actress in a musical/comedy for Girls and the awards' ever-reliable cameramen captured this somewhat bizarre meeting of Marion Cotillard, Salma Hayek, and Lucy Lui.

I like to imagine that these three saw the cameraman approach and concocted a plan to give complete bitch face to whoever was up on stage... and the Marion was all "why am I even listening to these two?" and did a 180 by flirting with the cameraman. And then, of course, the lady in glasses was all eavesdropping and decided she wanted to be all like Jenna Malone with Kaylie Hooper on last week's episode of 30 Rock and join the cool kids before realising she'd been played by Marion like a fiddle.

I didn't actually watch the ceremony as I'd been busy that day with other stuff, but I did follow some of the show on Twitter and it was almost as entertaining. It sounded like an awards show on drugs, which is the best kind of awards show. I've been catching up with some of the wins on YouTube because I did a search for "golden globes" on PirateBay and came across an entirely different sort of video that I have no desire to see. You know what I mean (nobody plans on making porn, after all).

As for the winners? Well, they were mostly all as good as could be expected. I definitely loved the duel wins for Girls - I think that show is a spectacular antidote to so much that's around on TV and in cinemas. Plus, hey, their "let's play a song while you making your way to the stage" song was a remix of Robyn's "Dancing on My Own" so it was even better - as well as Argo and the actors. Of course, the show would have been markedly improved if all the categories were announced by a rotating combination of Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Kristen Wiig, and Drunk Glenn Close (and, yes, Will Ferrell, fine!), and with Adele giving a speech on behalf of every winner. Those women are a hoot, I tellsya!.

So much of a hoot even Nicole Kidman couldn't contain herself (er, a recurring theme I suppose given she was nominated for The Paperboy!)

Of course, if we wanted to get serious for a moment we could discuss Jodie Foster. I think Nathaniel Rogers made a very good observation when he said Foster's speech (for the Cecil D Demille lifetime achievement award) reads better than it played on camera. Foster's delivery was at times awkward as if she wasn't getting the response from her cathartic and raw punchlines as she was expecting. However, it made for a wonderful moment and one that acknowledged both the path that somebody can take to coming out on such a global scale, but also the way that, well, she hasn't hiding her homosexuality from those that mattered.

Foster frequently gets labels thrown at her by some in the gay press for not coming out in the way that appeases them, but if you weren't already aware that she was gay then yesterday's speech put a full stop on that. Her diversions from the topic - reality television most prominantly - may make some think her speech came off as little more than lip service that skirted the issue, but Foster has shown time and time again that this isn't a topic she feels a particular need to address in such a showy fashion. Her speech last night was like a one night only performance and with it she excelled. Plus, it must be said, she looked mighty fine doing it. If she does indeed intend on spending more time behind the camera than in front, then it will be sad since she's such a fantastic actor, but maybe one day in the future we will see the first openly gay female director taking home an Oscar statue for direction and won't that be a sight?

All the power to her, I say, and if her speech doesn't please everybody then that's hardly surprising. Her critics will no doubt latch on to her worrisome association with Mel Gibson (surprise: I think he already knew his friend was gay), or the way she tries to deflect attention, or the amount of time it took her to so publicly say it. If her biggest crime is wanting to not come out to 6 billion people as a way of publicising Flightplan then I don't think she has much to worry about.